Friday, October 27, 2006

Red String for Baby David

The Artswipe
Red String for Baby David, the New Kaballah King
Mixed Media, 2006

The Artswipe never makes it a recurring practice to namedrop but sometimes you just gotta. So here goes... Madonna is actually one of my best friends. OK, there, I've said it. Let's just now move on. To prove it: Madonna is actually No 1 on my speed-dial. Madonna and I have been friends for years. I choreographed those conveyor belt moves seen in one of her late eighties tours. And now I'm in line to be a diasporic godparent.

Madonna has been calling intermittently throughout the year, telling me to "up" my platform: "Move beyond the blog and start a talkshow you fool!" She's always on my case about that, and I always reply: "When you start adding Australia to your tours, Bitch!" Anyway, we always have that kind of banter. But I must admit, she's always crapping on about how far away Australia is, but she never complains about going to Africa if she can pick up a tasty souvenir or two. Sometimes our best friends are really our worst enemies.

To my surprise, I received an email from Guy Ritchie this morning. When the husband is emailing you behind the wife's back, something's definitely up. It's no secret; Guy and I have never really gelled. He's basically a talentless, whinging pom and he's jealous of my relationship with Madonna. He hates anyone who has a longer history with his wife than him. When they got hitched I begged her not to marry him. I even photoshopped Guy in bed with Tom Cruise, but really should have used a pic of Guy that she wouldn't recognise – like one she hadn't actually taken during their honeymoon and emailed to, like, everyone.

So Guy emails me and it was very revealing: "Madge really hates Oprah - she's called Oprah a condescending motherfucker this morning while Nanny No 3 was within earshot changing baby David's nappy. You know, once when Madge was on her show, Oprah waited for the ad-break to tell Madge that she'd never earn as much money as her. Madge fired back: 'Once a fattie, always a fattie!' When the ad-break ended they smiled for the cameras, hugged and shed a few tears while a moving Gregorian Chant version of 'Holiday' played over a slide show featuring never-before-seen polaroids of Madge's dead mother. It was actually a great TV moment and made me think of directing some TV one day. But Artswipe, if Oprah wasn't black, Madge wouldn't have bothered defending the recent media tirade on her stage. But black is our favourite colour this year and Oprah has topped the black charts for years now…"

I was actually surprised that Guy could string a sentence together. His talent obviously knows no bounds. He is a writer/director, after all. After more rambling, he basically confessed that they adopted David because some Kaballah mystic said it would be good for the faith to get more multicultural and that red string works quite nicely on black skin. He signed off by apologising for being a cunt to me over the years and pleading for Artswipe to put some positive spin on their adoption situation.

Well, I can't promise anything. Rome wasn't built in a day, and Hollywood certainly wasn't overtaken by Kaballah propaganda overnight. These things take time. But I really do support their decision to adopt David. Celebrities always look much better when they have a trophy from poverty stricken or war-torn parts. Mia Farrow knew once she made a name for herself in Rosemary's Baby all those years ago that her future babies would never glisten with the Satan-like connotations of whitemeat. Angelina Jolie hands-down wins the Artswipe award for best combined family haircut. And speaking of trophies, Madonna knows more than anyone that black babies are more than just accessories, especially when they're destined for a life of being dressed by Dolce & Gabbana.

It's not the first time Madonna has expressed a desire to mother black "children." Throughout In Bed with Madonna, she goes on about how her she mothers her black gayboy dancers "out of the need in me to be mothered." She was then, quite simply destined to one day have a black baby of her own, to teach him to vogue some of those low-down drrrty Motown moves. Madonna, more than anyone, knows how to manufacture sizzling shit-hot authenticity out of the most base cross-cultural cliches.

So I say: Leave Madonna alone. Kaballah obviously needs the numbers, if not a new poster chile.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Sarah Goffman
Kingswood Swamp, 2004
From Alien Invasion,
MOP Projects catalogue, 2005
Courtesy of the artist and MOP Projects

It's no secret, Artswipe gets pathetically nostalgic for art school life all the time. Oh those were the days. I recall the good times, sitting around in circles biting each others' heads off (or giving some good old fashioned art school head) in "crits" while the lecturers swanned around reminding the kids that art is hard so get used to it!

You can probably imagine then, the anguish I have been experiencing in recent weeks with all this bullshit about the National Art School's potential merger with the College of Fine Arts and the closing down of the University of Western Sydney's fine arts and electronic arts programs.

Where will the kids go to make art? Is it a coincidence that
anti-sedition is all the rage with the Howard government at the same time art schools are a dying breed? Sedition laws, which significantly impact artists, were passed less than a year ago, and now art is being threatened again in a way that's linked to the government. The lifeblood of the arts – its government funded university art schools – are under threat. Higher education itself has never been part of Howard's agenda. Adequate funding to keep alive a culture of educated types is just not relevant in a country that, for instance, celebrates Steve Irwin and shuns Germaine Greer. If Greer gets stung by a bee, has a severe reaction and dies, will her funeral be televised? Will people avenge her by killing all the bees?

The brilliant thing about NAS and COFA is they are such dynamically different institutions. I'm not going to play favourites and say one has a better approach to art education because they both excel in their own unique ways. As for UWS, well that place produces art student powder kegs who come from the west or choose the west for their art education. I've fantasised many a time of what it must be like to make art in the west, or at least show at Casula Powerhouse. Casula features in most of my dark fantasies because Ivan Millat once drove through there picking up a hitchiker. In one of my favourite night sweats, I am a conscientious citizen who jots down the number plate, goes home and paints it, acrylic on canvas.

Oh and all the fantasies I could conjure about UWS. All those parklands surrounding the vast campus. Artswipe would never catch a train all the way to Kingswood without being guaranteed some good old fashioned date rape in those dark woods. So basically I'm yet to catch that train. I mean, really, the Kingswood campus even has a fucking swamp! And the swamp's inspired artists like Tracey Moffatt and Sarah Goffman to make art and I'm pretty sure they didn't study art at UWS. Basically a university with a swamp needs an art school attached to it. Mandatory.

Tracey Moffatt
Artist at Work, 1997
(represented in Sydney by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery)

Swamps bring out the Julia Kristeva in all of us and it's at art school we read that wonderful book, The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1982). My favourite line: "During that course in which 'I' become, I give birth to myself amid the violence of sobs, of vomit" (emphasis added). While Kristeva wasn't talking about an art course per se, she may as well accept the fact that we all read this at art school and it became the mess mantra. Remember that old saying that there's a time for everything under the sun? Well, that includes having your perfunctory grunge period, where you go all abject and degenerate, piss all over the car park, photograph it, photocopy the photograph, post it on the noticeboard (the one which is only read by engineering students) and document it all over again but this time with whatever body fluid is your favourite that week. When I went through my grunge period, dandruff was my medium because I was saving my body fluids in a time capsule. The Powers of Horror was my textbook - I was really getting into subverting boundaries, borders and binaries - and I paid enough in library late fines to have been able to buy at least three copies of it.

Well, art school date rape has taken on new highs because it seems UWS has been raped and pillaged of its esteemed arts programs. Sari Kivinen, who was a shortlisted for the 2006 Helen Lempriere Traveling Art Scholarship and reviewed in an earlier Artswipe post (you might remember Sari drinking her multiple personalities under the table, or at least in the kitchen sink) is spokesperson for the blog Save UWS Arts and internet petition. Organised by UWS students, the blog and petition are gaining much momentum and support, which is great. Stay tuned for protests - if you're lucky they may even take place at the campus bar, which I'm told is called The Swamp Bar.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Crocodile Tears

Steve Irwin in Toyota advertisement (2004)

Since Steve Irwin's death, The Artswipe has been engaged in some unofficial vox pop, hitting the streets with a series of really important questions:

1. Did you cry when Steve Irwin died?
2. Did you give a shit about Steve Irwin before he died?
3. What will become of Bindi Irwin?
4. Have you hurt a stingray in the last month?

The answers yielded interesting results. Regarding Question 1, the general consensus was people were devastated their great cultural icon had gone. Not everyone cried, because since Diana, it's been hard to make celebrity grief meaningful. With Question 2, the results were certainly mixed, with most people saying they were so proud of his accomplishments they considered him one of the family. Very few confessed to not liking Irwin before he died, and feeling a tad guilty now he was in celebrity heaven. One angry dame spat in my face for using the word "shit" in the same sentence as "Steve Irwin." Someone's gotta tackle the big issues, lady!

With Question 3 things get really complex. Before Steve Irwin's death, The Artswipe didn't know about eight-year-old Bindi Irwin, having been indifferent to popular culture founded on crocodile cowboys like Hoges and Irwin. Their careers are crassly commercialised clichés made with American audiences in mind. Steve Irwin's fame was rock solid in the US long before it took off here in Australia. It seems Australians only gave a shit about Irwin after he'd been validated by Americans. If a celebrity's image is founded on a renegade touristy stereotype, then how can it have any relevance or authenticity in its originating country? That Irwin had reared a media savvy, delightfully named, crocodile huntress in Bindi had simply escaped me. I was too busy coming to terms with the fact that people eat this myth with a spoon: man tames beast in rugged terrain, film it for network television, package it with merchandising and charity causes. Erase all signs of big dollar network mediation, emphasise how Irwin was actually doing worthy work (helping sick animals and the like) and what you have is instant hit validated by one and all. When Germaine Greer gets on her soapbox, the media jumps on her, reminding everyone she's a cranky old bitch. What would Germaine know? She's an ex-pat which makes her an instant traitor. Despite her wacky ways, she's basically a signifier of any vestiges of intellectual culture Australia has ever produced. Therefore, she is discredited immediately. What would a pioneering radical feminist scholar know? Nothing if her work is not perpetuating cultural dumbness.

Bindi Irwin and mum Terri Irwin at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards

The results to Question 3 confirmed that indeed I'm not alone in only discovering this little miss sunshine in recent times. Bindi made such a beautiful speech at her dad's funeral. Having taped the funeral – I even took out the ads – I often return again and again to Bindi's performance, the svengali in me recognising I could make a wad of cash if I kidnapped her and set her loose on the stage. Perhaps she could be the opening act for Kylie's Showgirl tour? Bindi could at least read from Kylie's new children's book. Such instincts to exploit this little girl have simply become commonsense. When you're born into the media, you perform or be damned.

Presenting Guy Sebastian the Favourite Australian Artist award at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Bindi in her now customary khakis and crimped pigtails, ate up the stage. "Isn't this great?" Bindi said. "I'm the smallest presenter but I get to give the biggest award." When the Awards climaxed with a big slime fight that saw Bindi, Guy and the hysterical tweeny audience smeared in all shades of green, I just knew Steve would have been proud of his number one girl. If you haven't achieved a televised slime fight in your life so far, then you basically haven't achieved anything.

But all this fame has an ethical dimension when one is so young and thrust into a spotlight rendered brighter since the death of a famous parent. Headlines have been preempting what will obviously take place: Bindi Irwin will be a big star. Despite psychologists like
Alison Garton voicing concern over Bindi's emotional or psychological wellbeing amidst the turmoil of losing dad, we all know that Bindi's basically hot media property. The Sydney Morning Herald's headline for their report on Bindi's appearance at the Nickelodeon awards: "Make Way for Bindi the Rock Star." Well, she's already a rock star. In today's Sun-Herald, a two page article on "the Bindi debate," reports that she already sings and dances in a band called Bindi and the Crocmen, has her own line of clothing and will debut in a 26-episode pay TV program in the US.

When The Artswipe reported on
JonBenét a few months back, I was implying how the saturated depiction of such kids whose early success is based on their precocious smarts and their ability to perform as apprentice adults, represents a new kind of media sanctioned pornography. The Artswipe is not trying to sound like a moral crusader, far from it. The Artswipe is just sick and tired of how in death we turn fairly vapid celebrities like Steve Irwin into saints. Before his death, he was just another larger-than-life Aussie whose celebrity was based on a kitschy brand of Australiana.

"I don't want Daddy's passion to ever end," said Bindi in her heartfelt eulogy. Dear Bindi, as long as "passion" can be merchandised (just ask Mel Gibson), you'll never have to worry about that. Just keep on wearing your khaki uniform, conforming to a recognisable visual identity that melds humanitarianism and entertainment, and you'll be Daddy's passion incarnate. And when you're 18 and trying to throw off your youthful image, I'll support your decision should you go the way of Nikki Webster, to spray that raunch in

As for Question 4 about whether anyone had hurt a
stingray. Nobody admitted to human vs nature vengeance in the admittedly smallish sample of people I randomly asked yesterday at work (don't question my empirical research methodologies, ok). Who would even admit to that shit anyway? Oh that's right, I don't think my vox pop sample featured any of the Steve Irwin fan club freaks, who in avenging their master, are really imagining Germaine Greer's face when trampling all over the poor docile stingray.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Art Satan

California Dreams (pre-Philip Brophy makeover)

I'm becoming very predictable. Really, I never thought I'd write another Artswipe post citing the gorgeous man of all things glam -

Philip Brophy. As he's showing at a post-Lempriere Artspace, and there's really not that much else on, I couldn't help but dedicate this next song to Philip.

Featuring three solo projects by seemingly divergent artists, Artspace is like one big salad at the moment. To the left is Gary Carsley doing his drag/daguerreotype thing sealed with a fairly innocuous but knowing reference to Björk's least interesting song "Venus as a Boy". (Note to self: I must get to the fucking Chauvel and see Drawing Restraint... I must also recharge my iPod). In the middle of Artspace, as one enters the gallery is Maria Cruz, that zany den mother of the monochromatic moment unofficially paying tribute to my favourite game: Million Bucks (and everyone has to know). It's a variation of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. You close your eyes, point to someone ugly in the street and that's the next person you have to have sex with. And everyone has to know. In return you get a million bucks. This game is aka Charity Fuck. Actually, that's not at all what Cruz's work is about, but that's my interpretation and I'm sticking to it.

Performance art moment: Skanky Jane puts a blindfold on Artswipe. Spin around. Of course the blindfold is made out of organza, so Artswipe gets to sit pretty looking down on all creation. At that moment Artswipe knows everything and has power over what's hot and what's not. Biopower, actually. Kant incarnate mulling over the colour chart of life, Artswipe decides what images will be heritage-listed this season. Point and fuck. And if everyone has to know about it, then that's cool because the Press Release is Artswipe's favourite literary genre right now.

Who do I point at? Philip Brophy: Art Satan.

Turn right at Maria Cruz and Brophy's Evaporated Music 2: At the Mouth of Metal is playing. Actually, walk into Artspace and his Dolby 5.1 "aural surgery" can be heard contaminating the whole Gunnery like acne spreading its putrefied pointillism teen crackwhore style. A scene from the early '90s TV show California Dreams is given a Brophy metal remix. I don't recall California Dreams, but it gives off a kind of Hillsong vibe in its peachy pastel glaze of righteous rock.

File under: Inspirational.

In his artist statement, Brophy writes: "Like Satan summoned in the middle of the high school prom, Evaporated Music 2 rescores these vapid TV studio-floor moments with the sound of Metal. Think Disney riddled with cancer. The Wiggles sweating with Hep B. Evaporated Music 2 welcomes the most Other of music – Metal – and amplifies its guttural explosions through the healthy bodies of television's dream of contented pop music."

With hands raised, not to the Lord, but
Lordi (the Finnish monster mash maelstrom who won the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest) Brophy's taped-off-tv loop of California Dreams (with its, I think it was Channel 7, watermark still intact) is a glittering tribute to what might happen if Delta Goodrem was raped by a crate of ice cold Pepsi dildos.